Burzaco Provides Third Day Of Testimony In FIFA Corruption Trial
Alejandro Burzaco, the U.S. government's first witness in the FIFA corruption trial, appeared for a third day in federal court in N.Y. on Thursday, following the suicide of a former associate in Argentina whom he implicated in his testimony earlier last week, according to Rebecca Ruiz of the N.Y. TIMES. His third day of testimony "also followed apparent attempts at intimidation by one of the three South American defendants sitting across the courtroom." Burzaco, "fleshing out further details" of how his former company, Torneos y Competencias, had paid six- and seven-figure annual bribes to football officials, including the defendants on trial, in exchange for "lucrative broadcasting contracts," said, "There is a lot of money in football, and a lot of bad men in the business." A lawyer for one of the defendants -- South America's former top football official, Juan Ángel Napout -- challenged Burzaco on Thursday in a "contentious cross-examination," asking if he had personally delivered the cash bribes in question, given no records of wire transfers to his client had been produced. Burzaco said, "I don't know where Napout collected his money. But he did disclose to me that he received it." Burzaco said Thursday that he had been drawn to working in football "more by its glamour than its economics." Burzaco: "People are more interesting in football than telephone companies." The others about whom he testified on Thursday included the network of "once all-powerful" South American football officials "whose influence extended globally through their roles at FIFA." Among them were Julio Grondona, a top FIFA official and president of the Argentine FA until he died in '14; Ricardo Teixeira, the longtime president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) until '12; and Nicolás Leoz, the former president of the Paraguayan FA. On Thursday, a judge in Paraguay approved the U.S. Justice Department's request to extradite Leoz, 89, who has been under house arrest in Asunción. Given Leoz's advanced age and health issues, the judge ordered him to be "assessed by a medical panel first" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/16).
'FAKE NEWS': The AP's Rey & Wade reported the FIFA corruption trial "illustrates the political power" of football in Latin America, "with tentacles reaching beyond the field and possibly into the office of a national president." During testimony, Burzaco alleged a "web of bribes connected to the administration of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and the government's telecasting" of professional football matches. Mark Jones, who teaches Latin American politics at Rice University, said, "The equivalent would be if the United States government were to take over the televising rights for the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NCAA and televise everything for free." On her Facebook page on Thursday, Fernandez called a headline in daily La Nacion, which linked her to bribes in the Fútbol Para Todos program, "fake news." She wrote, "If the cover of La Nacion were from a foreign paper, I would sue for malice and false headlines in that country and I would surely win." Fernandez's state-run coverage of Argentine soccer began in '09. Using a "populist appeal," she said at the time that "all of her compatriots had the right to watch" football on TV -- not just those who could pay for it. Fernandez said that having the games only on pay-TV was "kidnapping goals" from the public (AP, 11/16).